TWO and a half years after forming the government in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is likely to take up a portfolio. Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office said he will take over the Water Ministry. In February 2015, after winning the Assembly elections with a massive mandate, Kejriwal had said he would not keep a portfolio, and instead focus on acting as a “bridge” between his Cabinet and the people of Delhi.
Explaining why the CM has changed his mind now, a source said, “Water and sewage are lifelines of the people of Delhi. If these two issues are looked after, a number of problems faced by people can be solved.” The Bawana bypoll win, by a huge margin, appears to have decided the matter for the AAP.
“After Bawana, it is even more apparent that water and sewerage are two issues at the heart of problems faced in a city like Delhi, and cuts across classes and rural-urban divide. It is the one issue that needs the most work,” added the source. Kapil Mishra, who last held the ministry, was sacked after the MCD defeat. While Mishra claimed that he was targeted for raising issues of corruption against AAP leaders, including Kejriwal, the party had said he had been removed due to water scarcity in Delhi ahead of the MCD elections, which the party believes cost them the polls.
AAP MLAs said that at a dinner hosted by Kejriwal in May, after the MCD loss, trailing 133 seats behind the BJP in the 270-seat corporation, the issue of “the CM’s portfolio” had come up. An MLA, who did not want to be identified, said, “It was mentioned that the fact that the CM didn’t have a portfolio was damaging the party politically due to perception. Especially because Mishra was making false allegations that the CM didn’t work. It gave weight to the BJP’s narrative that the CM was interested in everything apart from Delhi.”
Post-MCD polls, the Kejriwal government had also shown a clear change, focusing on governance and avoiding direct political confrontation, another AAP leader pointed out. Party leaders and government officials have been holding “meet the public” sessions each day since then.